You'd think that eSports wouldn't generate that much heat, given that the finals were at 9:30 on a Sunday night on ESPN2. Most NBA games were over for the day --Sunday games tend to be shown earlier in the day than on Saturday-- and MLB was on regular ESPN. Without college basketball and the NBA regular season, there's a whole lot of "not much" on Sunday nights on ESPN2.*
But of course, some people had to bitch.
You don't have to watch to get the gist of it. ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd doesn't like eSports, and he wants you to know that ESPN made a mistake (saying it mildly) by putting Heroes of the Dorm on ESPN2. Sportsgrid and The Mary Sue both have their own take on Cowherd's rant, but both boil down to the same thing: ESPN also broadcasts the National Spelling Bee, poker games, and eating contests, so saying eSports have no place on ESPN is pretty silly.
Now, the question about whether eSports are "real sports" is quite another thing.
There are games that qualify as sports that make me raise my eyebrows. Bowling, for starters. Golf, for another.** While both are competitive, you don't see people get fit playing either sport. You could make an argument about golf, but the way most people play the game now (using carts) any fitness gained from walking 18 holes has pretty much evaporated.
And auto racing.... Let's not go there.
George Carlin's 1986 clip on sports.
I don't think I need to tell you that he's a bit profane,
and that he says a few things that are more offensive now than
All of the so-called sports I listed above are tests of skill, but they won't get you fit.
My personal definition of something that is a sport is that it is an athletic physical activity/game that will provide good exercise. Handball, tennis, running, and basketball are all sports. Golf, auto racing, bowling are not.
eSports are not sports by my definition.
That said, eSports are definitely tests of physical skill, just not enough to give you a good workout. If that were the case, my "work" of sitting around and typing at the keyboard all day would qualify as "exercise".*** eSports fall under those other so-called sports (golf, etc.) in that they are all tests of physical skill, but eSports also veer into mental skill territory found with other games (spelling bee, chess, poker, bridge, Scrabble, etc.) that have big championships.
eSports are at that intersection between physical and mental skill that, for some reason, make some people uneasy. Probably because they remember goofing around playing video games and saying "Wouldn't it be cool if you could make money PLAYING these things?" But the reality is, this sort of level of competition turns the game itself into work. LoL teams like Fnatic pretty much work at the game all day, almost every day, and the level of skill involved almost guarantees both burnout and a drop in skill level once pro eSports players hit their mid-late 20s. If you thought the burnout level at the progression raiding guilds was high, you ain't seen nothing yet.
Playing a game (or a sport) isn't the same as watching it.
When you hear people gripe about eSports not belonging on ESPN because "they're not real sports", my initial response is "What does it matter to you?" After all, does watching basketball make me fit?
It's just people's biases kicking in, and they don't like the fact that video games require a skill that they (likely) don't have. If Colin Cowherd was good enough at LoL, do you think that he'd turn down a boatload of cash to play the game in a pro league?
Again, hell no.
Would ESPN be silly to turn down a chance to get in on the ground floor of something that could become a huge entertainment franchise?
I'm not a big fan of ESPN, but they've got the right of it this time.
*NHL Hockey is on NBC and NBCSN, the NFL (in the fall) has Sunday night games on NBC, and the European soccer/football league games are long over by the time US prime time rolls around.
**For the record: my grandparents were avid bowlers and loved-loved-loved watching PBA King of Bowling on television back in the 70s/80s/90s; my father is a true golf nut to the point where he used to hit the links with snow on the ground if the weather was warm enough. I grew up watching him putt on the family room in the evenings.
***On second thought, I'd rather not give somebody the idea that maybe I could get exercise by coding. That's kind of a depressing concept.
EtA: Clarified that my dad used to play golf while snow was on the ground.